Basal Cell Carcinoma – Treating the Most Common Form of Skin Cancer
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer in America. This slow growing form of skin cancer originates deep in the basal layer of the epidermis and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. The basal layer of the epidermis is the deepest layer of the outermost layer of skin. It’s estimated that nearly 2.8 million cases of BCC is diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Although it is rarely deadly, if left to spread it is often disfiguring.
The most common cause of basal cell carcinoma is over exposure to the ultraviolet light of the sun and those most at risk are those with fair skin, light hair and green or blue eyes. In most cases basal cell carcinoma doesn’t look that different from normal skin. It may be a slight bump, raised area or the skin may have a white to light pink appearance. In some cases the skin may look pearly, waxy or like a scar in an area that hasn’t sustained injury.
To confirm a diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma a dermatologist examines any suspicious areas by looking at the color, shape, and texture of the affected area. If skin cancer is suspected, a small piece of skin will be removed and examined under a microscope. The result of this skin biopsy will determine which, if any, type of skin cancer is present.
Treatment Options Available
There are several different treatment options for basal cell carcinoma depending on the location, size and depth of the cancer. Small superficial lesions may be treated with medicated creams while more involved areas may be treated with cryosurgery where the cancer cells are frozen or curettage and electrodessication where the lesion is scraped away and the cancer cells are killed by electricity. Excision cuts the tumor out and radiation is used when the cancer has spread.
The most effective treatment is Mohs micrographic surgery with a cure rate of 99% for primary basal cell carcinoma. The surgeon excises the smallest possible affected area of the skin, stains it and examines it under a microscope. When the tissues at the margins of the lesion show negative for cancer cells the surgery is over. This procedure eliminates guesswork and allows the surgeon to remove only diseased tissue.
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